Thursday, December 14, 2006

On fall music

John Coltrane A Love Supreme
When I decided to get into jazz, I began with a Google search for "best jazz albums of all time." This album appeared at the top of near every list I came across, and after more than a dozen listens, I now understand why. Comprised of four distinct but related pieces of colourful composition and expressive improvisation,
A Love Supreme captures Coltrane at the height of his all-too-brief career. Exploring what was then a newfound spirituality, Coltrane pours showers of notes over stormy accompaniment from his three bandmates. If you don't like this, you don't like jazz. In fact, if you don't like this, you should probably rethink the whole listening to music thing altogether.

John Coltrane - Part 2: Resolution

Elvis Presley From Elvis in Memphis
In 1969, after series of kitchsy films and lacklustre LPs, the former King of Rock and Roll had become a washed-up parody of himself. Elvis was no longer vital. But a trip to down to Memphis, Tennessee, the birthplace of Presley's legendary fifties recordings, allowed the King a last moment in the sun. Backed by a band that's tighter than Brenda and Billy Chenowith (check out those mad basslines!), Elvis shouts and shimmys his way through these twelve rock, country, and R&B numbers with an unparalleled energy that would soon vanish forever.

Elvis Presley - Only the Strong Survive

Charles Mingus The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady
This is a massive piece of music. Composed as a four section ballet, it's really an in-depth self-examination of Charles Mingus by Charles Mingus (although the liner notes were infamously written by Mingus's psychologist). Although there are a number of blistering and beautiful solos, this is jazz as compositional music, rather than improvisational form, with Mingus developing a number of themes that recur in increasingly avant forms. The weaving and winding lines make this great head music while the dark and fragmented melodies fill your soul.

Charles Mingus - Solo Dancer

Captain Beefheart Clear Spot
Beefheart's music is not nearly as inaccessible as some reviews had led me to believe and this album, released in 1971, might be his most listener friendly. Although he's often written about in the same context as his good friend, the late Frank Zappa, Beefheart's music is less irony-laden than Zap's send-ups - he's far more focused on deconstructing and reconstructing the blues in a rock context. The weirdness of the whole thing makes it closer in spirit to the classic blues recordings of artists like John Lee Hooker and Robert Johnson than to the cocky blooze rawk of Beefheart's sixties and seventies contemporaties.

Captain Beefheart - Crazy Little Thing

Miles Davis In A Silent Way
Whatever you might think of the fusion jazz movement that this record inspired (personally, I like where it took Davis and Herbie Hancock, but not the whole Weather Report thing), you can't deny that, in terms of exploring musical space, this is a masterpiece. Davis is one of those musicians whose sound is instantly recognizable, and his spare, melodic solos here are definitive examples of the massive impact he had on jazz. He takes the minimalist approach to its logical conclusion, while wholeheartedely experimenting with the of blending electronic instruments with traditional jazz. Shhh, peaceful.

Miles Davis - In A Silent Way/It's About That Time

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is this, October?

I'm admittedly a jazz wuss, and can't stand headaches like Bitches Brew. And if I have a couple of hours to sit down and really listen, I'll throw on A Love Supreme or Black Saint. But most days I'd rather play it safe with bombastic, but pretty conventional, albums like Giant Steps, Ah Um, or Kind of Blue, although Kind of Blue isn't really bombastic is it.

10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

also your weather's kind of sucky.

10:56 AM  
Blogger Marco Ursi said...

I think jazz (like a lot of other things) only really got good in the Sixties. Those 1959 albums you mentioned are all fine, but they've got that dinner music vibe that always seems to force them into the background.

And yes, our weather is sucky.

11:52 PM  

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