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Tuesday, Mar 17, 2009
by Walter Tunis - McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

How do you whittle down 70 years of Blue Note Records to a handful of favorites?


Downbeat magazine asked those at the forefront of today’s jazz generation to go one step better and name their single favorite album issued by the label. On the magazine’s cover is sax man Joe Lovano, who will release his 21st record for Blue Note, Folk Art, in May. Cradled in his arms is his pick: Art Blakey’s 1964 bop masterwork Free for All.


Bill Charlap, pianist and musical director for The Blue Note 7, chose pianist Horace Silver’s 1954 album with an earlier and altogether different lineup of the band (named Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers). But in a recent telephone interview, he all but dismissed any notion of a single “favorite” Blue Note work.


“It’s a very show-business question to ask about your favorite Blue Note record,” he said. “If you have more than one child, would you choose a favorite?”


Rather than limiting the choices to a single selection, here is my critic’s pick sampling of five champion Blue Note recordings. The choices—representing a just four years of the label’s mammoth history—intentionally omit Blue Note’s more iconic artists (Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and others) in favor of less-appreciated players who defined the label’s timeless blues, bop, soul and swing.


Hank Mobley, Soul Station (1960). One of the happiest Blue Note sessions ever teams sax great Mobley with drummer (and onetime boss) Art Blakey and pianist Wynton Kelly for an album of lean, soulful cheer. A guaranteed smile-maker of an album.


 


Sonny Clark, Leapin’ and Lopin’ (1961). Clark is a shamefully overlooked pianist, composer and sideman, and his records as a band leader mixed playful blues (summarized here on “Voodoo”) and exquisitely reflective solo playing (his cover of “Deep in a Dream”).


 


Kenny Dorham, Una Mas (1963). Like fellow trumpeter Lee Morgan, Dorham had a way with a lyrical phrase. Note the similarities between Una Mas’ title tune and Morgan’s “The Sidewinder”. But Dorham also exhibited understated swing and regal cool.


 


Lee Morgan, Search for the New Land (1964). You could argue to infinity about who was Blue Note’s greatest soloist and composer. Morgan gets my vote. He cut harder swing sessions, but few reached the sleeker emotive extremes of New Land.


 


Andrew Hill, Point of Departure (1964). Albums like this woke up Blue Note to the times. Within the jagged rhythmic strides of “New Monastery”, “Spectrum” and “Dedication”, pianist/composer Hill took the blues of Blue Note into brave new improvisational turf.


 



Tagged as: blue note
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Tuesday, Mar 17, 2009

Eight years ago this week, Welsh agit-rock band Manic Street Preachers released their sixth album, Know Your Enemy. The album’s style was highly idiosyncratic and more varied stylistically than earlier Manics albums. Notably, it’s the first time lead singer James Dean Bradfield penned a lyric for the band in the form of “Ocean Spray,” a song that hit #15 on the UK charts. Here are the singles for the record as well as a live version of “Baby Elian”.


Manic Street Preachers - “So Why So Sad”


Manic Street Preachers - “Ocean Spray”


Manic Street Preachers - “Found That Soul”


Manic Street Preachers - “Let Robeson Sing”


Manic Street Preachers - “Baby Elian” (Live)


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Tuesday, Mar 17, 2009
Through the White House’s YouTube account, for example, or the myriad of reports, reactions, reductions and sponsorship exploring popular politics, we have all iconic information at hand. It’s not all about Mike’s air time anymore.

“Your president’s on TV,” my aunty kept saying in the days after the election of Barack Obama. I could not be home for the inauguration, but I am told that families like mine all through the South grilled meat, made dressings and salads, fried fish and chicken, smoked ribs, got together, played cards, laughed and drank, slapped hands and talked politics.


The politics they talked had to do with education: “The sooner we get our young girls out of the city schools, the better off we’ll all be.” Black folks talked about nutrition: “Are they steal taking away those kids’ lunch at school?” Folks talked about the war: “How’re my cousin, his wife and their two kids? Are they in any danger of being deployed?” The war lingers and all bets are off for military families.


Over a games of Spades, folks talked about the economy: “Winn Dixie is having a sale on shoulder bones, and Kroger is selling out just about everything.” Plus, I would add, gas is down. Over a slice of Pound Cake or Seven Layer Bars while recapping the Reverend Lowery’s benediction, folks spoke about infrastructure: “It’s cheap to build houses here; materials might be a little bit cheaper, but folks are out of work and will work for less.” In our area outside of Montgomery (YES one of those areas from which folks walked during “the” Boycott), the only industry to have not come to a grinding halt is healthcare, oh, and fast food. So, during Obama’s inauguration, while I was unable to fly back from my sunny south Delhi apartment, to the sweet Southern sun, I am told that the folks are all just fine.


I wanna be like Mike. I wanna fly like Jordan, soaring, throwing hoops.”
President Obama’s first 50 Days is popular news spreading faster than the tribulations of a young couple struggling with stardom, fame, and the inheritance of violence in our lives. “Take a cue from your president,” aunties like mine would tell Chris and Rihanna, “he’s on TV”. Obama is the new icon for every little brother and sister, despite the emergence of the new “Black Overclass”, examined by reporter Lee Hawkins regarding these near miracle moneymakers. They have their hoops and their dreams, but here is something more real, no disrespect to Mike Jordan, Jackson, Tyson, Steele, or any other stiff who fails to speak prophetic truth.


Go Obama, go!”
Instead of wanting to be like some pop icon, I’d rather be like Obama. Or, I wanna be the kind of guy Obama would hire. We can address the economy, healthcare, war and peace in isolation and never coordinate our efforts into anything meaningful. Now, in the comfort of your own home and with he power of the Internet, you can take notes on the president’s weekly chats. It’s not all about Mike’s airtime anymore.


Through the White House’s YouTube account, for example, or the myriad of reports, reactions, reductions and sponsorship exploring popular politics, we have all iconic information at hand. You can decide to inspire yourself to aspire to something greater, not just some piece meal approach of ‘if and then’. “If I can save up enough, I’m gonna buy me a pair of Jordans.” Or we might say, “If I can loose ten pounds, then I can fit back into those old jeans and just feel better about myself.” We sit at our desks and wonder, “If I can just do this job a little longer, then…” And this cycle never ends. “If I could just get my credit together, then…” or “If I could just finish/go to school, then…”


Will we end see the perpetual cycle of hunger and unfulfilled desire we feed ourselves? We even feed this hunger—literally—with fast food, stuffing the emptiness we otherwise feel at home, dissatisfaction in our careers, troubles in our relationships, or generally residing to one’s old own lot. Piecing all this back together would take an eternity. We need a more holistic approach, and fast. “Everybody knows about Mississippi, Goddamn!”


Desegregation? Too Slow! Mass participation? Too slow? Reunification? Too slow! Do things gradually and folks will suffer further tragedies of loosing their homes, more civilians and combatants will die in war, and still more teenage girls will get pregnant, especially by older guys. Families collapse in those climates, and communities erode, lest we take good care. Folks will feel demoralized if not for the mass participation. Obama? Just in time.


Barack Obama’s historic speech on race, inequality and resolution


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Tuesday, Mar 17, 2009

Adam Buxton’s innovative MeeBOX was never given a proper chance by BBC3, which aired only the pilot last year and then decided the show didn’t fit the prized 16-24 demographic. At the time, Buxton—one half of the legendary comedy duo Adam & Joe—wrote on his blog, “The kind of stuff I produce is not particularly in synch with the world of Lily Allen and Gavin & Stacey... but I hoped there might be room for a diversity of shows on BBC3.”


Buxton’s statement now seems especially prescient, as BBC3 has gone precisely in the Lily Allen and Gavin & Stacey direction with new show Horne & Corden, in which Mathew Horne and James Corden—both from Gavin & Stacey—attempt to take up the male comedy duo mantle. The show invites comparison to the now-faltering Little Britain more than it does to the work of Adam & Joe or Bob & David or even Tim & Eric. However the show has just begun, and Kathy Burke is directing, so the verdict is still out. If only MeeBOX had received the same opportunity to grow.


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Monday, Mar 16, 2009

Hot dog.  Four brand spanking new videos from one of the most exciting electronic jam band hybrids in the world today. Jason “Bong-Ra” Köhnen and his pals are in the process of creating something truly special.  Here’s what I said about their latest EP: “As great as the debut record was, everything about this EP teaser for the upcoming sophomore full-length on Ad Noiseam indicates it will be a superior product. The production is that much more spooky, rich, and atmospheric, and the song structure that much more purposeful and realized. It seems they have struck a perfect symmetry in the studio as a group, feeding off one another and performing cohesively. There is not a wasted moment to be heard. Mutations will slide its greasy fingers up your spine and linger there until you like it.”


The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble - “Avian Lungs”


The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble - “Shadows”


The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble - “Goya (Live in Budapest 2008)”


The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble - “The Nothing Changes (Live in Budapest 2008)”


Just for contrast, here’s what Jason Köhnen does when he’s not jamming with the Ensemble…


Bong-Ra - “Jo Bench”


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