A 50th anniversary in music is always impressive. 25 is good, but 5 is just desperate, although someone is no doubt writing about and eulogising over Burial’s debut album this year. Longevity being subjective, and music being so damn personal, in 2041 someone on the ‘net will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of EMF’s ‘Schubert Dip’ album - well, it must mean something to somebody.
So it happens to be 50 years since Rudy Van Gelder mic’d up The Jazz Messengers. That’s the new Jazz Messengers, with Freddie Hubbard and Cedar Walton replacing Lee Morgan and Bobby Timmons. It seems impossible to replace Morgan, but here’s Hubbard, with plenty in his cupboard to make sure that the former man with the horn in this outfit was not missed too much. Aside from these hip replacements, Art went bigger, to sextet-size, with the addition of Curtis Fuller on trombone. Curtis didn’t just as another big sound dimension to the band, he wrote ‘Arabia’. Hubbard wrote ‘Down Under’ and ‘Crisis’, whilst Walton contributed the title tune. So they were a fairly talented trio, and not bad players.
Someone said that Shorter’s sax-playing sounded like ‘scrambled eggs’, to which Art replied ‘Yeah, but it’s the way he scrambles them’. Quite. Wayne gets to scrambling here, and reaches far-out fantastical places at times, the kinds of places that earned him the moniker ‘Mr Weird. He would get weirder, and get modal with Miles, but if he’d never left The Messengers I think his time on earth would have been well spent.
As for Art, what can I say? He played drums with such power, precision and feeling. That’s all I can say right now.
You should have this on vinyl. I don’t say that often, but the Blue Note sound is one that warrants still having one of those olde decks, with needles you have to lift and place on those big round black discs. A house is not a home without a Blue Note record in it.
Book find of the week, Nebel's account of his experience as a hot radio jock with a hit show that had him interviewing 'denizens of the way out world'. He was a witty guy with a wry take on all this, walking the line between scepticism and a genuine interest in the esoteric. I like his writing style too. As a one-time con man himself he was right for the job, and his prose style has that old hipster knowingess about it.
There’s no escaping noise in the city, so you may as well embrace it. Sitting outside Blandford’s Cafe in Chiltern Street, here’s what was ‘playing’...
the bell-like jingle of a girl’s belt as she walked past...
frequent tones of taxi engines, which are quite distinct from other vehicles...
various clicks from women’s shoes, depending on height and width...
the padding of trainers...
swishing of material from a woman’s trousers as one leg rubs against the other...
a light, but loud, airplane...
distant whine of a workman’s saw...
patter of a dog’s paws...
‘There are other options, so we can go through that’ (girl on her mobile)...
suitcase wheels rolling on the pavement...
clatter of a tin Kenco sign against the back of a metal chair...
brakes of a van squealing...
high-pitched buzz of a scooter...
variations on the car engine theme according to model as they change gear for the junction...
car alarm which lasts for a round 20secs...I take this as the finale of the ‘concert’ and move on...
Waiting for my coffee in Costa on Coleridge Rd what should surface but a powerful bout of misanthropy – huh – yes, suddenly detesting everyone around me – now lots of things surface from our subconscious mind, yes, but hatred for other humans rarely rears it horned head in mine, but there you go, there I was, looking at the young mother with child in pram, woman with laptop, portly middle-aged man also waiting in the queue – bastards! It’s not that I thought I was better than them...perhaps the implant from the night I was captured by men in black had not really been removed by LJ when I begged her to shove tweezers down my ear last year having just recovered from almost using my gun on innocent passers-by – well...coffee drunk, I was passing two young mothers coming towards me when a small toy dragon fell (or was thrown) out of the pram – I picked it up, returned it to the grateful woman, went about my way – it atoned for the earlier feelings, I like to think. Two minutes later in the charity shop they’re playing Bacharach and David’s ‘What The World Needs Now Is Love’ – which served as a reminder to my evil self...
Whilst in Costa I was dipping into Paul D Miller's 'Rhythm Science' book and came across the phrase: 'I write because I want to communicate with fellow human beings and forestall subjective implosion'. I like that. It pretty much sums up my motive. Subjective implosion is a terrible thing...very messy...and to write is the only way of avoiding it...apart from talking, and writing is a form of talking, of course.
I took Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer’s ‘Re:ECM’ album onto the streets two days ago, naively, not knowing what it sounded like – it couldn’t compete with the music the traffic was making. Then again, whilst cycling, the wind howling in my ears drowned out their efforts – and again (I’m a slow learner), this morning, on the street, what should start up but a street-cleaner’s machine, the drone of which could only be combated by Merzbow, I imagine. So, you gather, ‘Re:ECM’ is not the soundtrack for excursions into the urban environment, no, more suited to a meadow, perhaps, or desert, and obviously a darkened room, although having played it a few times I confess to not fully knowing what I think of it. On the plus side they haven’t just cobbled together excerpts from the ECM back catalogue with beats. But I wonder, also, if they have thrown the baby out with the bathwater by opting for ultra-minimalism in their effort to respect the label’s reputation for refinement. It might help if I knew the tracks they’d used, but I don’t, not being a big fan of the label, which is too cold and studied for my liking, on the whole. They did, however, release some Art Ensemble of Chicago albums, one of which is ‘Urban Bushmen’, and that’s a record everyone should own. Ethereal vocals drift in and out, as does brushwork on the drums. ‘Resenada’ has more meat on its bones, perhaps I like it more because it uses Bennie Maupin’s ‘The Jewel And The Lotus’. I’m not saying it’s a bad album, but for now it remains just out of reach and may grow.
What do you think of it? (A YouTube listen isn't ideal)
Talking about music is like dancing about architecture, or writing about music is like dancing about architecture - the famous quote mutates, and has no clear origin. Here’s a qualified architect making music. David Letellier was born in France and now lives in Berlin which, as you know, is twinned, musically, with Detroit. Perhaps Letellier’s understanding of form and function, space and the aesthetics of construction enable him to design sound the way he does. Having a bass machine which looks like the Futurist’s 'intonarumori'probably helps, although I cannot confirm that he actually possesses one. I suspect, disappointedly, that the huge bass sound he creates comes from a microprocessor the size of a matchbox, cut in half. Either way, he has mastered the art of making a magnificent noise. It’s bass-heavy, yes, but there is also a roominess to the sound, wherein the heavy bottom end is contrasted with some beautifully programmed percussion. There’s the trick, as if Letellier has drafted these designs with an understanding of how light will fall through windows and, of course, what the various materials, their shape and size, will do for ambience. The Futurists idolised speed, but Letellier perfects a steppers pace as the best Drum ‘n’ Bass producers once did, without pandering to the demands of a dance floor. But if anyone is dancing to it, they’re robots, on Mars, in a building that looks like something from a world’s fair circa ’65. If you liked the‘Pruitt Igoe’ EP, this should also satisfy. It’s big, meaty and bouncy.
Fred Myrow’s ‘Furniture Party’ from his soundtrack to ‘Soylent Green’ followed by The Focus Group’s ‘Colouring Toys’ proved a perfect pairing whilst doing the MP3 Shuffle this morning. Don’t you love doing The Shuffle? The Harlem, or MP3 version are both are very fine although, despite having listened to Bob & Earl’s gem a million times, I’ve yet to actually perform the dance.
Meanwhile, dancing in my head courtesy of my little technological friend, I still marvel at the perfect combinations and crazy juxtapositions it comes up with. Strangely, this morning, it kept wanting to play tracks by Joel Vandroogenbroeck, which started me thinking that it has a mind of its own, and preferences, just as we do.
This freedom from having to choose is, perhaps, the ultimate manifestation of the modern medium making us lazy. You can store zillions of tracks, get them for free, and you don’t even have to consciously select them.
As a DJ I enjoyed forging links between different genres to prove to myself, if no-one else, how clever I could be and the extent of my knowledge. The trick was to do so in a way that kept people dancing, and that did depend on the crowd’s taste being as eclectic as mine. I used to boast (to myself) about being able to get from Jungle to Jazz in five moves; the route went something like this: dubby, percussive Jungle, Dub, Funky 70s reggae, a Funk-Jazz groover and, you guessed it, George Melly...or was it Herbie Hancock? Probably the latter.
Years later I’d be freed from the tyranny of the ‘floor as resident at a bar where I could throw Stockhausen, DJ Shadow or Tangerine Dream at the punters. Some stayed for more than one drink, amazingly.
I partly envy laptop DJs although they’re detested by ‘proper’ exponents of the art; you know, those playing CDs – ha-ha. I recall being dead against CDs as a DJ tool in the mid-90s. God knows why. It meant a fellow DJ at the Rumpus Room could play some rare electronic Herbie Hancock, so perhaps this luddite was secretly jealous. More likely I was afraid of venturing beyond putting a needle to the groove. It had taken me ten years to learn how to do that.
To have your digital library to hand whilst DJ-ing must be mind-boggling. Only purists in the crowd would object, surely, and they shouldn’t be there in the first place. Clubbing and music collecting in general is no longer the preserve of the purist, they say, although Taste, whilst having expanded, is still not something that comes at the click of a button. Perhaps fashion is a good comparison. Yes, you can buy all those clothes cheaply courtesy of children sweating in distant lands, but you’re not buying Style. I’m not sure how you get sartorial Style, exactly, but like music, I suspect it comes from a degree of knowledge (fabrics, colours, cuts etc).
Today’s vast online music library may provide opportunity, but taking it is another thing. I wonder if there’s a site specialising in 70s Pop sharity? Very rare Showaddywaddy cassette/demos and the like. Talking of cassettes, the desire for obscure cassette-only hip-hop mixes makes me wish I’d kept my tapes made from the Radio One Sunday night chart show. I’m sure they’d be popular. Cult items, definitely, complete with snippets of the DJ talking over the end of every track.
No idea who this is doing the 'Harlem Shuffle', but the footage is a 'groove sensation' ((c)Stewart Home).
Fred Myrow's quality opening piece for 'Soylent Green'...
From 'Writers At Work' (Secker & Warburg, 1968), which is a collection of Paris Review interviews. Burroughs went to St. Louis late in 1964 on assignment for Playboy, which rejected his piece. The wonderfully-named Conrad Knickerbocker conducted the interview for Paris Review whilst he was there. When it was published in '65 it included one page from his journal, apparently, but this book has three. I couldn't find these online so I thought I'd scan them.
Surveying the racks of Jazz CDs in Fopp this morning I thought: ‘Well, it’s over’, because there they were, Blue Note albums, literally cheapened, yet seemingly unwanted – it felt that way. It’s my guess that everyone in London who wanted cut-price Cool has already bagged the best. £3 stickers on some classic recordings almost seems obscene, now that I’ve got mine. I’m grateful to Fopp, though, for giving me the chance to re-purchase albums that I was forced to sell long ago. It was that or no more truffles to mix with my eggs when I was on the dole. Funny, how that handsome artwork on the sleeves was shrunk to CD-size and finally nothing in file form. Funny, and tragic somehow.
I could have spent longer in town but to paraphrase GSH (RIP), home is where the hard drive is, so I’m back inside, glued to the screen, listening to an album of Sun Ra tunes remixed by some DJ who’s name escapes me, wondering ‘What’s the point?’ I gave it a shot, optimistically hoping for a brave new take on Blount, but all I’m getting is stuff like ‘Fate In A Pleasant Mood’ renamed as ‘In A Pleasant Mood’, which amounts to Ra’s piano melody ‘updated’ with a basic beat – UGH!
Now I’m not in a pleasant mood, so I switch to the ‘Italian Movies’ LP featuring Chet Baker playing tunes written and arranged by Piero Umiliani. I may as well confess, though, that Chet’s not one of my favourite players, despite his finely-chiselled physog and rightful ownership of the label ‘Coolest Cat In Town’. But here, backed by an octet, big band and strings, he sounds magnificent, or rather, the totality of the sound is magnificent, from the uber-cool of ‘Smog’ to the peppy (preppy?) ‘Motorizzazione’ – yes! (Trilby) hats off to Piero and the man with the horn for putting me in a pleasant mood.
Pepijn Caudron’s second album for Miasmah cracks your skull wide open and casts a spell, especially if you listen with plugs in – a spell so devilishly seductive, so dark, it makes Demdike Stare sound like...Pop – yes, it’s that good. If Pop Sounds and Happy Music in general are godly gifts to lift the hearts of listeners, this extraordinary album is the work of the anti-Christ, and as you know, the Devil has all the best tunes. Not to suggest that Pepijn is a wicked person (I’m sure he’s a nice fellow), but that this record absolutely represents the very best in sinister, mysterious modes of music-making, without resorting to brutalism, ie Noise. There is a remarkable passage in the 9-minute ‘Wrak’, however, in which a skronking sax and electronic maelstrom combine to blow your brain. It’s all the more effective for being sandwiched between plaintive piano, and strings reminiscent of Herrmann’s work for Hitch. ‘Ballet Van de Bloedhoeren’ demonstrates another side of the multi-faceted Caudron in a beautifully melancholic chamber (of horrors) quartet mode made more grisly by a low-end electronic undertow. ‘Satyriasis’ is one of the most intriguing pieces, a subtle exercise in creeping horror sketched out by jazzy brushwork, strings, piano and restrained electro-ambience. This is not an album you can skip through and hope to understand what’s going on, so don’t bother. It demands, and requires close attention because, as in all great horror or Film Noir flicks, the substance and true meaning lurks deep in the shadows. Amazing work.
Two recent bargain bin finds. Covers scanned rather than photographed. Doctor, please help me, I’m compelled to buy this sort of thing.
Stan Butcher his Birds & Brass, 1965
‘These SUPERSTEREO Albums bring to you a new concept in stereo recording. For, until now, most stereo has been of the ‘gimmick’ type exploiting the techniques of stereo whilst not fully realising the true musical value of the performances.
Now, CBS Records are proud to present the recordings you have really wanted. The lush sounds of big, famous orchestras and the exciting rhythms of instrumental groups – flawlessly recorded. Spectacular records, but records that faultlessly retain the superb artistry and dramatic arrangements the artists intended. Superstereo will bring out the full potential of your playing equipment.
You will thrill to the sound of Superstereo.’
I still cannot believe this 'Blues & Brass' cover. It was 1970, and Deacon Records (England) tested the limits of tawdry, exploitative album cover ‘art’.
‘A tremendous rhythm section!
A terrific instrumentalist!
A great brass section!
It all adds up to excitement which is Blues & Brass!’
Egisto Macchi only gets this on Wikipedia, which is absolutely shameful, and made me dig a little deeper to get more info and finally find it here.
This album is a kind of masterpiece, if you can have a ‘kind of’ masterpiece. It’s orchestral, choral, electronic, frequently on the dark and sombre side, and most definitely leading the field in the Orchestral Hauntology genre which, as you know, has taken over in popularity from plain Hauntology, Industrial Hauntology, and (that’s enough of that).
Although there’s a track called ‘Computers’, even that doesn't conform to normal schools of electronic sound circa ’75 – you know, Wagnerian grandeur, quirky noodling, or ‘Look, I've just bought a Moog’ exuberance. This sounds more apocalyptic, more of a reflection on the possibility of mechanised Armageddon in the form of creeping terror wrought by circuitry seeping into the soul of humanity accompanied by constant ticking. Chords of doom echo throughout ‘Per Cembalo’ whilst other...things...scurry around. There’s even some brief fuzzed guitar on ‘Allunage’ adding a hint of the maestro, Ennio, to the proceedings. A magnificent album in a neo-classical, suspenseful mood.
All aboard the good ship Improv! Batten down the hatches, stormy weather is expected, and I don’t mean the song because I doubt that anyone at the Boat-Ting night would play it, want to play, or if they did, play it in any recognisable form. It’s a Monday night, my friend’s over from Bangkok and has suggested we meet up because he wants to see some ‘live’ music. During the phone conversation he mentions Steve Beresford and we both say we’ve heard of him but the context escapes us, a fact which, later, shames me because I know, really, that he’s a ‘legend’ on the UK Jazz/Improv scene, and I must have seen his name a million times in Wire magazine. So we’re standing by the Thames looking at the little boat where this night is supposedly happening, just a few people on deck, sat at the tables – it doesn’t look too lively but we’re well aware of the fact that ‘lively’ and ‘Improv’ night just don’t go together. There’s no sign outside, but this suggests to us that the night is here because, well, Improv is so underground as to not bother with efforts to advertise – I don’t blame them because a sign might attract people, people like tourists wanting to see a band play music that's melodious, or at least recognisable as music, and this is the wrong place for that. We walk up the gangway (which feels ominously like a gang plank) and down the steps into the bowels of the ship where two guys at a table tell us it’s six quid each. I pay, then check that’s it’s a Lady Gaga night, you know, a tribute act, all straight-faced, and he looks at me, assesses what I’m wearing, thinks a bit, and I save him from further procrastination as to how to answer by laughing, and he laughs, my friend laughs, his friend laughs and we go in to a cosy room for 150 people with a few stylish chairs, a bar, wooden floor and a table to our left on which a white cloth covers something. Mmm...not even a ‘real’ instrument tonight? No torturing of a saxophone or dismantling of a drum kit – fine. We get drinks and become bemused at the music being played, which must be something put on by the barman, unless the organisers think that Blondie and other hits from the 80s will set the appropriate mood. Look at the ‘crowd’ (around twenty people), recalling so many Improv gigs I went to years ago back in the olde days of Improv, when they did make odd noises on common instruments. We go up on deck, look at the murky twilight sky starting to show up the neon of the OXO tower very nicely, chat, go back when we hear what sounds like a poet – it is a poet, Ronnie McGrath, and he’s rapping complex surrealistic prose like a true pro, great delivery, musical, like Ginsberg meets The Last Poets – good, so good I buy his book off him later. Go back on deck and get chatting to a guy from near Liverpool who’s been in London for years and plays bass apart from doing an office job, and I get to rapping about the moon, and our place in the cosmos, how we can’t be alone and if people think ‘aliens’ are a weird concept, how weird would it be to find out that we are alone! And so forth, about music, work, living in London. He tells a funny story about the young daughter of a friend who, upon hearing Lol Coxhill play live, simply said ‘Bore-ing, bore-ing’ – heh-heh. Back down for Beresford, a guy ‘playing’ an acoustic guitar and a woman vocalising – sit there, start to get into it, drift off, tune in again – Steve’s twiddling knobs, the woman’s adding pseudo-operatic Dadaist sounds, heavy breathing etc, and the guitarist is doing things that make the guitar sound like it’s not a guitar. A baby in the audience is making noises too, perhaps in appreciation, who knows – the very young are unburdened by our preconceptions of what music should sound like. Funnily enough, the baby noises do fit in with those made by the adults. Raymond Scott made albums called ‘Soothing Sounds For Babies’. These sounds aren’t soothing, but I still think the little one is connecting somehow with the sound of electricity. Perhaps babies are the best audience for Improv. Further still, I think Steve should have asked the mother if he could borrow her child to perform at his next gig.
Sheer ‘lunar sea’ – well, track 8 is anyway (that’s the title) – and not in the Drexciyan sense of cosmo-mythological aquaticism either, you won’t be surprised to learn.
As you can tell by the cover this is very much of its time, 1968, and there’s a cartoon representation of Lennon, his head exploding in a Technicolor trip!
I keep telling myself that I shouldn’t like this album as much as I do – it’s wrong – it’s got one foot in twangy surf music of old, and another in a cartoon Future that’s part Jetsons, part Jean-Jacques Perrey. How can it fail? Easily, you’d think, but it never fails to make me smile inside every time I play the stoopid thing.
Imagine frugging in outer space because you took a rocket ship to Mars in 1965. They throw a lot in, along with the kitchen sink (or the kitsch In-Sync with late-60s fun time freekiness). ‘Zen Quake’ starts with some sonic strafing like that used by Lee Perry before it remembers what it’s supposed to be, ie, party music for swinging astronauts, and a sax starts up, played in pure Vegas grind style. See what I mean? It’s madness. In the middle of ‘Bells for Eternal Zoom’ they drop some dubbed-out freeform psyche, and listening again, I hear something new, and odd, in almost every track. Mind-blowing, man.
The consequences of giving a little girl the wrong kind of ice cream: several cops, a secretary, two cons, countless youths, the ice cream seller and the little girl, all killed. Yes, it was a bad day in L.A., but wasn’t Laurie Zimmer fantastic as ‘Leigh’? Those smoky eyes, the droll delivery of almost every line. When she parks a smoke between Napoleon Wilson’s lips I can’t help thinking of Bogey and Bacall. She had something of the divine LB about her, pared down and hardboiled...what a great femme fatale she would have made 30 years earlier. Watching ‘Assault On Precinct 13’ again the first assault struck me as a incredible scene – Carpenter’s vision – to have nothing but the ‘phutt’ of firearms peppering rooms – a kind of audio-visual poetry is created from just this, bullets flying into rooms. The way a paper pad is hit, a leaf or two fluttering from the impact, then more sheets being blown apart – it’s a mesmerising alternative to the more obvious choice of victims dodging bullets amid a cacophony of yells, screams, dramatic music and thunderous artillery. And the soundtrack, as you know, is one of the greatest ever written.
In ’87 Carpenter made ‘Prince Of Darkness’, which I’ve not seen, but it provides a tenuous link to Miles Davis, who acquired that nickname somewhere along the way. The Oslo concert footage has only recently emerged, I believe. It’s top sound and visual quality. I love the shot of his foot on the pedal early in ‘What I Say’. That just seems to symbolise so much, sartorially (flares, slight platform sole), but musically, dare I suggest, foot-to-the-floor...and fuck anyone who doesn’t get it – Miles is driving this machine through all the bullshit, and he’s wearing ‘freak’ gear! He’s in top gear! Can I keep up the driving metaphor? You bet – this car’s akin to that designed by Homer Simpson in one episode, but only in that it is totally his vision and it goes against the grain of what ‘should’ be created. Unlike Homer’s car, though, it works, is a fully functioning beast that snarls, roars, purrs, skids and screeches – and when you take a ride, you’re not sure where you’re going, you get confused, perhaps even afraid, irate and so on. Miles is The Driver. And seat belts are advised.
Useful album this – I played some of it to a cat that was in our garden the other day and it didn’t like it one bit (took on that startled look they get, then slinked away).
A lot of ‘cats’ have been in quartets, vocal, even folk, but mostly Jazz – so when Mr Delay gets himself three other cats to play with, making four, perhaps it’s logical to call it his ‘quartet’. So you might look at the line-up: Vladislav Delay (drums and percussions), Mika Vainio (electronics), Lucio Capece (bass clarinet and soprano sax) and Derek Shirley (double bass) – and think ‘Perhaps they’ll be a bit Jazzy’. Then again, you note Vainio’s presence, and you think again. Mika does whip up a right racket here at times, especially on ‘Louhos’, and accompanied by Capece’s playing, it almost captures something of the spirit of Free Jazz (with Capece being more of an Evan Parker than Archie Shepp) – almost, yes, intentional or otherwise, it reaches the kind of crescendo Coltrane created in his later years in concert, although not even Vainio’s digital axe can match the righteous racket that He did.
There’s a lot to like here; Shirley’s bass at the beginning of ‘Killing The Water Bed’, for instance, which I just played on my Windows library and YouTube, with a few seconds delay (pun not intended) – a great effect – it reminded me of Derek Bailey asking my DJ companion and I to play tracks at the same time when we accompanied him with some Drum & Bass on stage. We were too scared, thinking him crazy, but in retrospect I wish we had because only now that the poor soul’s dead do I see what he was hoping to achieve, a glorious racket of breaks and bass. Oh well. I think he might have approved of this album, it being very much in the spirit of electro-acoustic improvisation.
The quieter tracks, ‘Des Abends’, ‘Santa Teresa’ and ‘Presentiment’ work particularly well. Delay’s not one for dominating, opting more for cymbal and brush than whacking skins, which might make him the Modernist’s Connie Kaye – or not. Or perhaps it’s just that whatever he does hit has been chopped and distorted to such a degree as to render many sounds radically mutated. In the spirit of Jazz, though, this is a democratic affair. ‘Hohtokivi’ is pretty much a Pan Sonic track, such is Vainio’s dominance. And that’s no bad thing.