Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Turtle Island (String) Quartet
"Who Do We Think We Are?"

This recording has been on my shelf for a long time. I seem to remember this was in the Columbia House "clearance" section at one point, and having been recently introduced to the TISQ (probably by MPR) I gave it a shot.
It's never disappointed, even today, 17 years after its release.
The TISQ was first on the scene in an age before Mark O'Connor/Edgar Meyer/Yo-Yo Ma/Chris Thile/Nickel Creek began to blur the lines between acoustic, bluegrass, folk, classical and jazz. In fact, before then, there was probably little aside from David Grisman and Stephan Grappelli.
I think this was still the first time that my staunchly-classical ears considered that you could both play "fun" music and sound good at the same time.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers
"One Hot Minute"

Considered by many to be a low-point in the RHCP output for various reasons (as a follow-up to 'BloodSugarSexMagik', with the departure/replacement of guitarists) I think this album has held up well over the years. Considering the self-parody the Peppers have since become this doesn't seem like such an egregious sin.
I can't help but think that the Chili Peppers are a band that have been forced to take themselves way more seriously than they ever should've been.

Jascha Heifetz
"Encores vol. 2"

Complete with Herschfeld portrait of the 20th century legend, this is a record packed with two sides of Heifetz's most popular encores that he would perform at the end of recitals. These all have piano accompaniment, so you can imagine getting to the end of a solo recital and having him come out and blasting through a playful rendition of 'Golliwog's Cakewalk' as the perfect end to program.

Al Jarreau
"We Got By"

Every huge career has to start somewhere.

For Mr. Jarreau, it was with this LP.
It's interesting, knowing him also from his mature work, to hear him in a youthful, funky spirit in these songs.
Jarreau's ability to articulate even in mid-word is enviable, even if it does lead to strange-looking techniques. But it's jazz. Who cares?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Szell & Cleveland Orchestra
Schubert Symphony no. 9

Labeled prominently as one of "Szell's Last Recordings", this (I believe) marks the only time that Szell recorded Schubert's "Great" (although Cleveland later recorded the same symphony with Christoph von Dohnanyi.)
This recording was released posthumously in an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of Dr. Szell in the immediate years after his death.
Considering how many Szell/Cleveland recordings I come across in thrift stores all across the country it's not a stretch to consider Szell (along with Bernstein, Ormandy, etc.) as true musical celebrities of their day. This age is (sadly) long gone. I can think of the non-news it will be when one day Joshua Bell meets his end. "Josh who?"

Henry Mancini
Original Sountrack to "Charade"

The film, directed by Stanley Donen starred Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant along with Walter Matthau and James Coburn.

This is an original mono pressing in beautiful condition. I don't know where this record was hiding for the first 50 years of its life, but now that its on my shelf I'll be sure to continue to take good care of it.

Doc Severinsen
"The Great Arrival"

Released in 1968, this was far from Doc's first record, but it was among the first records when Doc was known as the bandleader for Johnny Carson.
One can only imagine that working with Mr. Carson dramatically increased Mr. Severinsen's profile with the average on-the-street fellow.

I've had the privilege of playing with Doc Severinsen, and now, even in his 80's exhibits a control over his trumpet that most would envy in their prime.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Chuck Mangione
"Chase the Clouds Away"

I shouldn't speak too harshly yet; my motto of "fear no music" is facing some opposition...
It's not the noisy orchestral jazz that concerns me, it's not the criminal disregard for basic intonation (one more take wouldn't have killed ya,) but rather the seemingly....pointless noise coming out of Mr. Mangione's Yamaha flugelhorn.
There are too many moments where the limits of his instrument sound more like a poorly handled trumpet/trombone rather than a correctly handled second-rate one.

Was it that no one had thought to play jazz flugelhorn before him? Was there a niche to fill?

Schumann: Piano Quintet, Brahms: Horn Trio
Serkin, Budapest String Quartet, Tree, Bloom

A recording made at the Marlboro Music Festival, there's no real way of telling if this was a performance captured at the end of a series of rehearsals, or an impromptu middle-of-the-night session brought on by a moment of inspiration and heavy drinking.

It's a great recording of (in my opinion) one of the best piano quintets.
I'm not sure I understand the logic behind the canonized ensemble of the horn trio, but it is (nonetheless) some beautiful music.
Catching up from the Holiday weekend...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Beatles
(Vinyl + CD)
Being home for the holidays has put a kink in my normal listening habits. However, a clever rule (that I just came up with) allows me to use mp3's in substitution, provided I actually own the album at home.

So, what can I say about 'Revolver' that won't make me sound like a pretentious snot or average-level moron?
I think this may be my favorite Beatles album, I love the song 'Taxman' and I listened to an mp3 copy of the mono remasters that were released in 2009. Oops, there's the snot...

The Beta Band
Three EPs
The Scottish Beta Band have faithfully been a cult favorite since before people started having cult followings of things.
Probably their highest point of fame was when they were featured in the film 'High Fidelity.'
You get the sense that the Betas are okay with their subterranean fame, though.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Average White Band
"Feel no Fret"

Part of the original crop of "blue-eyed soul" bands, I've yet to hear an AWB album that I haven't dug.
Granted, this one feels a bit more Bee Gees disco and less James Brown, (it was '79, after all) but I think AWB's real strength was having an innate sense of what "felt" right and building around that.

Schubert Impromptus op. 90 & 142
Alfred Brendel, piano

A series of eight short(-ish) works for the piano that are commonly recorded together. Divided and published in two separate opus numbers, I haven't learned if there is any real distinction of separation between the two sets.

I have absolutely no idea where I got this CD.

Haydn Cello Concertos
Yo-Yo Ma, English Chamber Orchestra

Released in 1981, Mr. Ma wasn't more than 25 at the time of this recording.
One of his earliest recordings, this represents a time in Yo-Yo's career where he wasn't yet one of the generation's transcendental classical artists who, having conquered all of the standard rep both on the concert stage and in the studio, began a cross pollination of genres from classical to jazz to bluegrass to world music to...

Even on the back of the LP jacket there are only three sentences spent describing Mr. Ma.
How quickly the world would change...

Europa Jazz
Sims, Pizzarelli, Hinton, Rich

This is actually one of the very first jazz records that I ever had. It was abandoned by the dumpster outside my apartment and I saved it along with Time Life's colection of Mozart's late symphonies and a Jeff Lorber disc that is no longer with us.

A mixture of standards and otherwise, it's a nice sounding record; its part of the spark that began my interest in truly listening to acoustic recordings, especially on vinyl.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Melos Quartet
Mozart - the "Hunt" and "Dissonance" Quartets

A CD re-release of a recording made by the Melos Quartet in the 1970's, it is a well-done digital transfer that preserves much of the warmth and blend of the original analog tapes.

Both the Hunt and Dissonance quartets are among Mozart's most famous. There's your factoid for the moment...

The John Mayer Trio

I can say certifiably that this is my favorite work from Mr. Mayer.
This is too bad, because John Mayer has a sense of humor and incredible guitar chops that would have people echoing 'Clapton is God' if he were born 40 years earlier.

So why does he make such crummy records?

Anyway, this record was recorded live and features an incredible backing duo for Mr. Mayer: Pino Paladino and Steve Jordan which make Mayer look really good.
Mayer's playing is great and echoes many of the great guitarists from Clapton to Vaughn to Hendrix without ever really exploring a unique voice that's his own.
I hope he finds that and makes some really important records instead of records just designed to get him laid.

Gordon Lightfoot
"The Best of"

I mostly hear of Gordon Lightfoot in a sneering insulting way. Probably from those Motorhead fans.

Either way, this record found its way onto my shelf. Released before Lightfoot's most famous song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald I can officially say that I've never heard any of these songs.
I also don't have much more of an opinion than that...

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Budos Band 2 (vinyl)

I remember seeing the first two albums from Brooklyn's 'Budos Band' tucked on the shelf of a record shop in DC and liking the artwork. It took me quite a while to buy the record, but I'm very happy my love affair with Dap-tone Records has begun.
Dap-tone uses only recording technique and technology available during the hey-day of soul recording in the 60's and 70's.
Sviatoslav Richter
Prokofiev, Piano Sonata no. 9 op. 103
Schubert Landler, Musical Moment no. 5, Allegretto in C

Hall of Fame HOFS 528

Sorry, it would seem there isn't an image anywhere on the Interweb of this record.
It looks as though its probably an American re-pressing of a Soviet label anyway.
Stereo artificially re-produced from original mono recording. Yuck.

The recording quality here isn't great. The Prokofiev was written in 1947, and there isn't any indication that this recording wasn't made soon after.

I haven't absorbed much of the work itself yet.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

"Morning View"

In many respects, Morning View represents a band that was ahead of its time.
Released in 2001, View sees Incubus climbing out of a far more raucous series of albums that saw a few hits such as "Drive" and "Pardon Me." But with Morning View Incubus embraces the more tuneful "happy" facet of metal/rock and writes (in my humble opinion) their best work.

I consider this to be the beginning of the so-called "Emo" movement; bands like Incubus and Linkin Park showing skinny white kids that they could rock just as hard as anyone. Thankfully, this was before the term was in use, otherwise this record probably would've ever have made it through my door. And that would be a shame.

The Meters
"Cabbage Alley"

The Meters are a band that found me via a movie soundtrack. While enjoying a birth of interest in neo-soul music I heard a track from their album Struttin' which got me interested in finding more.

Alley is a bit more guitar-driven than any of the other Meters albums I've heard. But I really like it. I almost feel that this record is pre-dating a lot of work in hard-driven blues/funk that would be on the horizon in another thirty years.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass

What better way to start the first sighted snowfall of the year than with some of the most ridiculously optimistic sounding recordings ever made?

If there ever was a time and place where Mr. Alpert packed arenas to hear his Tijuana Brass play it feels like another world by this point.

I love it.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Ahmad Jamal Trio @ Pershing
"But Not for Me"

Visiting (once again) the region on my shelf where some unexplored jazz records have collected I am taking this Argo jazz record for a spin.

The influential jazz leader/pianist is still going strong today, but this record hails from 1958, and thus far I'm loving it.
Not only is the music great, but throughout the whole record you can hear the patrons at the club talking, clinking glasses and clapping throughout the performance. It's a whiff of what it would have been like to go to your favorite night spot and hear this as the popular music of the day.
At this point Lady Gaga is too distant a heartburn to be known...

Cello Sonatas by Weill & Dohnanyi
Grossman, cello Walsh, piano

This recording represents two works for the cello that I've never heard recorded anywhere else.
That being said, I've never heard either of these works performed anywhere. Ever.

This is a digital-age recording from Nonesuch pressed onto vinyl which gives the recording a very "modern" feel; very clean, well engineered. In the transitional age when recordings were more commonly being purchased and made for release on CD you begin to see differences in the mix when you listen to it on vinyl.
Thankfully this record sounds like it should: a recorded performance.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chanticleer "Our American Journey"(CD)

A CD that found its way into my collection at the enthusiastic recommendation of a friend who delighted in showing off the bass singer's mustache and gut-rattling speaking voice.
Still, like many things we'll discover in this journey, it's a recording I haven't yet listened to.

Chanticleer, an all-male vocal ensemble, pulls off musical pyrotechnics only possible with the tightest group of compatible vocalists; sonorities and overtones that are maxing out my ability to hear.

Their recording projects range from more traditional repertoire to projects like this: tracing the American journey through song.
It's a beautiful collection, although I don't think anyone would mistake Chanticleer's take on an Appalachian folk song for rockabilly.

Arthur Prysock & Count Basie(Vinyl)

This marks the first time I've heard Mr. Prysock sing. I can't help but feel that he would've made a mountain of money if he did nothing but run around singing "Old Man River."

As I peruse the "jazz shelf" it occurs to me there's a great deal of culture, industry and history that I'm unaware of when it comes to recorded jazz in the 50's and 60's.

Different labels (Blue Note, Verve) sported different legendary artists and their recorded history will be regarded amongst the most important musical output of the early 20th century and I know startlingly little about it.

I shall try and rectify this.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Band of Skulls "Baby Darling Doll Face Honey"(CD)

The only album thus far released by this bluesy garage rock trio first caught my ear when it's lead-off track was featured in a commercial for a Ford Mustang.

It's still one of my favorite tracks on the album; lava slow, simmering to a boil and then backing the tempo down to a swaggering decay.

There are a lot of hidden gems that show a band that could really breakthrough. Here's hoping they're left to develop naturally without any unnecessary exposure. Their future work could be epic.

Michael Jackson "Bad"(vinyl)

What can be said about this album?

Well, I can say that I'm much more impressed by his work and talent when he was performing with his brothers than I am with his adult output.

I can also say that I'm not terribly enthralled with the predominant ideas behind record production in the 1980's.
The all-synth-all-the-time approach to arrangement and production leads to very tight, brittle, artificial, albeit distinctive sounding records.

There's no denying the appeal to these songs, though I'm willing to attribute more of this magnetism to Quincy Jones than the late Mr. Jackson.
If I were a dancin' man, I'd be hopping around in my knee-highs right now.
Bing & Satchmo (vinyl)

This kinda sounds exactly as you think it might: Crosby's dulcet baritone paired up with Louis' gravelly counterpoint. There's not a lot of trumpet blowing for Mr. Armstrong, but as a consolation prize our stars are backed by an orchestra arranged and conducted by Billy May. Yum.