Sep 30, 2013

Les Baxter's Moog Rock: Chill Out Exotica, Moog Style

Les Baxter (1922-1996) was known primarily for being one of, if not the originator of the genre of exotica. Baxter was also known for various film scores through out his career.

Baxter's "Quiet Village" which was covered by exotica legend Martin Denny became the bellwether for the genre.  Denny probably ended up overshadowing Baxter in the end.

This pictured vinyl copy of Baxter's Moog Rock is a stone classic of early Moog and just oozes 60's kitsch.

Totally infectious classical compositions reworked in a way that really gets under the skin. I was thrilled to find this record in a thrift store bin. In fact, I have found copies several times over the years, and sold them on eBay for at least 15 dollars each time. I won't sell my original copy, but you can now get the music on CD at Amazon.com.

The haunting music is part exotica, part chamber jazz, with just a smattering of rock. The music isn't some over the top hard rock album like the title could mislead, Moog Rock is laid back chill-out music.

Moog Rock delivers some heat every now and then, I feel a Moody Blues vibe on this but don't think full blown orchestra or anything either, the music is small group intimate music.

"Rachmaninoff - Prelude C# Minor" is the best track in my opinion. Enjoy the clip of the tune, and don't forget to add this one to your collection of chill out, exotica, or 60's lounge music.

You won't be disappointed.


Sep 25, 2013

Island Dreaming With Sonny Rollins: What's New? 1962 RCA Vinyl

Oh what a gorgeous record this is: Sonny Rollins' What's New? A record I found for the insane price of .99 cents, a vintage pressing at that.

 Honestly you don't expect to find a near mint beauty like this in thrift store bin, especially this particular thrift store "which will remain nameless", as most of their records are unplayable or water damaged, but not this one.

 I also found a copy of Rollins' The Bridge at the same shop.  What's new starts off with a fantastic Bossa Nova "If Ever I Would Leave You" with Jim Hall on guitar.

 10 minutes plus of Sonny playing over top the light island rhythm is always a good thing, with enough heat to not get monotonous. Sonny's in his "St. Thomas" groove. Candido stops by for track 2, "Jungoso" boils and bubbles with plenty of real Latin heat. Candido's primitive sounding Conga playing and the call and response with Sonny set this apart from your standard bop fare.

This "Jungoso"solo might be my favorite on record from Sonny. His husky tone really melds well with the conga drums.

The duo really play off of each other to fantastic effect. This is an underrated record for sure, I am really digging it! then back to the main theme and damn is it a
sultry groove.

Side 2 starts with "Bluesongo" again with Candido, this track is a little lighter and about half the length of "Jungoso".

"The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" back with Jim Hall on guitar and Bob Cranshaw on Bass, then finally "Brown Skin Girl" a real Calypso style send up that honestly might be the only track that keeps this Gem from being and absolute masterpiece.

"Brown Skin Girl" seems a little too showy, like the producer needed one last dose of the island, and they darned near jumped the shark with Fonzie.

The final track aside, Sonny is muscular, and so is Candido on the 2 tracks he appears on. You must have What's New if you are smitten with Sonny, I think Sonny's RCA label records are vastly undervalued.


Sep 16, 2013

Art Blakey Free For All: Heavy Metal Hard Bop

Talk about a monster of a hard bop album. Art Blakey's 1964 masterpiece Free For All just might be the the quintessential hard bop album.

"Free For All" the title track is not only "Hard" it's Heavy. I am talking about heavy in the most powerful sense.

Saxophonist Wayne Shorter's composition is seriously in your face, it will nearly take your breath away, it plays like a run away freight train.

 In fact, listening to my vintage vinyl copy of the album, one notices the recording equipment of the day, barely can take the pounding of the sextet.

Blakey's drums and Cedar Walton's piano sets the brisk tempo, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Shorter on tenor sax, and Curtis Fuller on trombone blow up a hurricane playing the hell out of their instruments.

Shorters "Hammerhead" is a bluesy soul jazz work, that offers fine solos from Fuller and Hubbard. Hubbard's "Core" A tribute to the Congress of Racial Equality, is also a powerful vehicle for the band to get heavy.

 Finally Pianist Clare Fischer's "Pensativa" was brought to the session by Freddie Hubbard, He also arranged the track for the album. The slightly down tempo number turns out to be the perfect way to end this aptly titled powerhouse, with its laid back island-rhythm style.



B.B. King Live at the Regal 1965: The King of Live Blues Albums

Live at the Regal is certainly one album, that does grab and stir you. If you don't have the hair stand up on your neck at least 5 different time during Live at the Regal  you might not have a heart, or soul for that matter.

B.B. is at the peak of his powers here, the guttural growl, the high pitch squeals.

 He is the absolute beginning and end for male blues singers. I don't think it is possible to eclipse this live performance, I really don't.

Here are a few highlights: B.B. leads off the track "Worry Worry" with one of the most incredible blues guitar solos I have ever heard.

The guitar tone and B.B.'s portly fingers deliver some sort of straight to the heart arrow that makes you week in the knees, Oh to play with that type of emotion and vibrato once in my life?  Also "How Blue Can You Get", see the video below, is an absolute masterpiece of human story telling, and the audience is eating it up with a spoon.

This guy can do no wrong, the suspense builds as B.B. tells the story of a unappreciative woman, with all the gifts he showers her with to no avail. Finally B.B. blows the roof off the Regal with an uproarious crescendo, just listen to it, you won't be disappointed.

I was very fortunate to see B.B. King at Riverbend Music Theater near Cincinnati Ohio in the year 2000, Buddy Guy and Susan Tedeschi were special guests too, a hell of a show let me tell you. B.B, even back then was all ready having to perform while sitting in a chair, his vocals not what they once were, but not bad at all.

 He really doesn't hit those high note like he once did. but he still made up for it with his expert charm, and I doubt any artist has more of that.

That first vibrato laden note he hit, sounded like a bolt of lightning to me, as good as Buddy Guy was, this was totally different, almost like God stepped down from the heavens and exclaimed "let there be music"

B.B. is nearly 90 years old now and still performing, I am sure all that weight he lost 20 years ago saved his life, and gave us 20 or more good years to enjoy this master of the up town sound. King is one of the greatest entertainers in the history of recorded music.

I paid .25 cents for this ABC Paramount label copy, the vinyl was a strong VG+ and it just sounds perfect, analog sound can not be beat for classic recordings like this.

 After all, it would stand to reason the original format for which the music was made would sound the best. Believe me it does.

CD's many times are tinny and compressed, and lose much of the original depth and warmth, why would any one listen to a CD copy when Vinyl is readily available? Both reissue and vintage copies at your finger tips . Let the blues live on...

Update: I would be remiss if I didn't mention the passing of B.B. King on May 14th 2015 at the age of 89. B.B thanks for teaching us what playing guitar is all about: It's not about how many notes you play, but rather how much feeling you put into them.

Alice Coltrane: An Underrated Jazz Composer and Instrumentalist

Why is Alice Coltrane ignored by the jazz critical establishment? I don't read too much praise for her being the ground breaker she actually was.

Those critics also at times belittle John Coltrane's "later" period, many times considering it as secondary, or unimportant in the grand scheme of his legacy.

This is a double slap to Alice's Coltane's legacy.  For some reason, she is pushed to the back seat as John Coltrane's wife, or  Ravi's mother in recent years, as if she wasn't as great as she was, like she only had a voice because of her husband?

Her Passing in January of 2007 was particularly tragic for the jazz community as she had recently began to record again, and as far as the media was concerned she was starting to step out of the gargantuan shadow of her late husband John Coltrane.

When I first got around to the John Coltrane catalog during my on going jazz  journey, I would read all these after thought statements: "Alice is no McCoy Tyner", or "Alice urged John into free jazz", they opine that she led to the dissolving of the quartet?

 They very much say some of the same sort of things that were said about Yoko Ono and the break up of the Beatles.

The first Alice Coltrane album I purchased was Universal Consciousness, not exactly a 4/4 shuffle blues album? Really pretty high brow spiritual influenced post bop/world music stuff "avant-garde astral jazz" if you will? I like a challenge, and still enjoy that album quite a bit.


I then turned to Ptah the El Daoud  with Joe Henderson and Pharaoh Sanders, a real gem of an album on impulse records. Alice also did a date fore Milestone Records with Joe Henderson called The Elements which is also a killer free bop style session.

Alice also appeared on several of her husbands mid to late 60's albums up until his death in 1967. These albums include Live Again at the Village Van Guard, Stellar Regions, and Expressions.

She also did some very controversial overdubbing on a mid 60's sessions release Infinity. They are not nearly the disaster I was lead to believe, very interesting string arrangements over top of free form blowing. The main upheaval comes from Jimmy Garrison's Bass parts being replaced on the 1966 sessions by Charlie Haden.  

I have a dozen vinyl copies of her records from the 60's and 70's, the above mentioned sessions as well as Huntington Ashram Monastery, Eternity, and Journey in Satchidananda, these are all very worthy of your jazz or world music collections.

You know, when I think about how satisfying Alice's music is as jazz, world music, and even
experimental improvised music, it's a cryin' shame she doesn't always get her due.

If you think Alice isn't a first rate instrumentalist, you need to check out the double live album on Warner Brothers called Transfiguration, an album has her going completely bananas on an organ; playing some very advanced improvised music in a trio setting, with Roy Haynes on drums, and Reggie Workman on bass, a fantastic album from 1976 at UCLA.

These records were all purchased online at one time or another, they are apart of my personal collection.

Vintage copies of most titles run from 20-50 bucks most times, reissues can be had a fairly reasonable prices too. check em' out. Watch out though, you might never get it out of your blood that vinyl.






Sep 15, 2013

Truth! Some Serious Soul Jazz with Houston Person

I love this album, Truth! it sure starts off on the right foot with "Cissy Strut", a monster fast paced bogaloo that almost overheats, you can't help but get moving on this track.

Houston Person never gets mentioned with the all time greats, it's a shame because Person is a fine Soul Jazz player in the vein of Stanley Turrentine.

 Person has a sweet tone, but he does tend to harden it up some, so you never would confuse him with the sugar man.

I think one of the problems soul jazz artists like  Person had, was the hard ass jazz critics of the day, they just couldn't stand anything that didn't fit into that "other musicians playing for other musicians box".

Soul Jazz was about connecting with the people, and these records sold very well, and you could have very likely heard a track like "Cissy Strut" in a rib joint in the deep south, they probably wasn't hearing to much free jazz in those venues.

You get danceable boogaloo's and medium blues, and sentimental ballads, and all played top notch. Sonny Phillips on Hammand organ plays flawlessly if not anonymously, but who cares.

I like the guitar, organ, and sax sound, this is up beat happy music, that anybody should enjoy adding to their collection. "If I Ruled the World"turned out to be a pretty nice ballad, if just a tad over done, it only lasted  3 minutes and then it's back to cookin'.

"On the Avenue" is a nice upbeat blues, and the side 2 opener "Wadin" struts its self along perfectly in a medium tempo blues way.

This vinyl copy cost me only $4.99, beat that!  for a 40 year old classic soul jazz record? If you can't get into this album, you might not have a soul, and that's the Truth!



Sep 10, 2013

Black Pearls: John Coltrane with Donald Byrd and Red Garland Prestige LP

Black Pearls is a fine session from 1958, that catches Trane in an ultra swingin' mood, right smack in the middle of his "Sheets of Sound" period.

 I really like this straight ahead bop session quite a bit.

The centerpiece of the album, which wasn't released until 1964 is "Sweet Sapphire Blues", an 18 Minute producer Bob Weinstock vehicle.

 The blues was almost entirely improvised by Coltrane on the spot, and the track shows off pianist Red Garland to a great extent.

Then Coltrane digs into this blues, along with trumpeter Donald Byrd to offer some very spirited classic jazz, I like the simplicity of the music, Side one seems almost like bop rather than hard bop and quite frankly fizzles out compared to the side 2 side long blues jam.

If you are a Coltrane nut, you want this for the 18 minute jam alone, plus the Red Garland Trio providing backing support is nice, think The Believers and Lush Life, both nice straight ahead bop albums worth acquiring along with Black Pearls.

This particular vinyl copy of Black Pearls is a mid 70's green label prestige that sonically sure sounds sweet, nice crisp bass, well recorded instruments, with hardly any distortion in the upper register.




Sep 1, 2013

Don Ellis' Electric Bath: A Great Album From an Underrated Band Leader

Is the Don Ellis Orchestra the Most underrated Big Band Jazz group of all time? Honestly I have a hard time thinking any other band was less recognized during its day.

After the trumpeter leader Don Ellis' death after suffering a massive heart attack in 1978 at the age of 44, the band seems to have had its fame extinguished along with its leader.

I think that had Ellis lived and the band continued, eventually Ellis would have received a lot more recognition.

Don Ellis could have been a house hold name, He did the film score for the Oscar winning The French Connection, as well as a similar Roy Scheider vehicle The 7 Ups. What I like about Don Ellis the most is his sense of humor, he really doesn't take himself too seriously, as many jazz musicians in particular can.

 I like the jovial way Don would introduce songs, especially those with unorthodox time signatures. Many a critic at the time did not warm up to this part of Don's personality, go figure?

Don did a few live albums for Pacific Jazz, Live at Monterey being the one that put the orchestra on the map. That success drew the eye of John Hammond of Columbia Records, where don put together the orchestra's first studio album Electric Bath.

I still believe Electric Bath is Don's Magnum Opus, an album that fused the Middle Eastern and Indian styles Don was into with just enough of a pop sensibility to make the album and the orchestra a pretty big hit, and an even bigger hit on college campuses.

Don was also an above average trumpet player who cut his teeth in the bands of George Russel in the early 60's. One such record was Ezz-thetics, an album that also included the great altoist Eric Dolphy.

The Highlight of this album Electric Bath is "Turkish Bath" I just love Ray Neapolitan's sitar throughout the track, the music feels like it could derail at any moment, as it ebbs and flows nearly out of control, such is the complexity.

 The entire album actually feels this way, the difficult time signatures on the edge of what these musicians could accomplish I suppose, but accomplish they did.

"Open Beauty" is an important track as Don uses an atmospheric back drop to highlight his echo-plex electric trumpet, and the music sounds more like something Miles Davis would do a year later on In a Silent Way, yet another example of how Don's innovation and ultimate genius goes unnoticed even today.

Every single track on Electric Bath is a keeper, no filler at all. This particular vinyl copy will run you in the $10-15 range for a VG+ or better copy, the reissue CD also sounds
remarkable.

If you like modern progressive big band, don't allow the Don Ellis Orchestra to slip through the cracks of your music listening play lists.

 You should have this featured album, as well as the Pacific albums, and Soaring from MPS records. All of Don's albums are worth exploring.

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