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by Sean Murphy

14 Jun 2010


There are not many people who have any idea what it’s like to be this cool. Even Wayne Shorter does not know, because he is too cool to stop and consider how cool he is. That’s what people like me are here for. And along with his partner-in-crime Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter has been one of the coolest dudes on the planet for more than five decades.

When I wrote about about the (second) Miles Davis Quintet—i.e., the best working band to ever make music—I had this to say about Wayne Shorter:

Wayne Shorter is, for my money, possibly the most underrated genius in any genre of music. To be sure, he gets plenty of props within jazz circles and the people who know really know. And in his wise, humble way, he is probably cool with that. But his name does not come up quickly or often enough in discussions of the true masters. Aside from his considerable proficiency on the horn(s), he is also among the most distinctive and consistently satisfying composers. And while Davis, who was without peer in assembling talent, had the vision and deservedly gets the lion’s share of the credit (he was the lion, after all), a good chunk of the material on those second quintet sessions was written by Shorter. And here’s where it gets unbelievable: all through the mid-to-late ’60s—at the same time they were in The Quintet—he (as well as Hancock) was dropping epic masterpieces on the Blue Note label (think Maiden Voyage, Speak Like a Child, JuJu, and Speak No Evil for starters).

by AJ Ramirez

10 Jun 2010


There’s one important fact that should not be neglected when commemorating the 30-year anniversary of Joy Division’s premature demise. Pretty much within a day of the suicide of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, his remaining bandmates decided to carry on under a new name. Thus was born New Order, an ensemble that gradually shed Joy Division’s rock essence to become one of the most influential groups in modern dance and electronic music. And, dare I say it, New Order was the better band.

While incorporating elements of electronic dance music wasn’t unusual amongst post-punk bands in the early 1980s (the synthesizer-based works of disco producers such as Giorgio Moroder were a strong influence for many of those groups), what set New Order apart from its rock contemporaries was how wholly the group embraced the music and its attending culture, to the point where a huge swath of listeners are unaware of the band’s rockier origins and inclination. In my own case, I was exposed to New Order’s music long before I had any inkling that there had been a predecessor group (much less one that played rock), due to R&B radio’s embrace of the band’s dancefloor-filling output during my 1980s childhood. In contrast to Joy Division’s grim Aryan-tinged image, New Order’s stellar run of singles during the 1980s acted as multicultural nexus points, linking white European post-disco, Latino electro from New York, and black house music from Detroit and Chicago, both drawing from and providing inspiration to these musical strains. The members of New Order would admit without hesitation that they were a bunch of white Britons who hated to dance, but their embrace and advancement of the technological innovations of electronic dance music—essentially forsaking agonized guitars and doomy basslines for drum programming and loads of synths—were never less than sincere. Witness the single “Confusion”, a kaleidoscopic blend of electro and early hip hop that remains a go-to cut for showing off one’s mad breakdancing skills:

by Jennifer Cooke

10 Jun 2010


Some people have a bone to pick with the term “alt-country”, but over the years, I find myself reaching for it in place of other labels like “Americana” or “roots music”. In describing favorite artists such as Old 97s or early Wilco, alt-country seems to best capture the idea of what the genre is to me: American country music played by and for people who grew up listening to punk rock and have a lot more Ramones in their record collections than anything to come out of Nashville post-1970s. I have never loved any artist who could qualify for a CMA in the last couple of decades, so the only kind of country that speaks to me is either the old kind, or the alt kind.

Whatever you want to call it, San Diego’s John Meeks does it smashingly. His new record, Old Blood was released on Loud and Clear Records on May 18, and was produced at Stereo Disguise Recording Laboratories, brainchild of Black Heart Procession’s Pall Jenkins. The new record became one of my most hotly anticipated releases of this year when I caught wind of the first single, “Been Down By Love”, which I rhapsodized about here.

by Sean Murphy

9 Jun 2010


Miles Davis. Herbie Hancock. Wayne Shorter. Tony Williams. Ron Carter.

Those men, individually, are some of the most important and brilliant musicians of the last century. Together? Forget about it. This quintet (Davis’ second famous fivesome) was an unstoppable force and they made some of the greatest albums. In jazz music? In any genre of music.

Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock need little, if any, introduction or elaboration. They were gods then and they remain gods, now. Seriously, you could spend years studying and absorbing the almost overwhelming volume of music they’ve made. And while the sheer quantity is impressive, the quality is astonishing.

by Jessy Krupa

9 Jun 2010


This week, we look at “Valentine Day”, a short instrumental track from Paul McCartney’s his first solo album McCartney. Perhaps because it appears on the same album as five other instrumental songs, it isn’t commonly known. McCartney himself doesn’t seem to place much emphasis on it, describing the song as, “Recorded at home. Made up as I went along…, This one and ‘Momma Miss America’ were ad-libbed with more concern for testing the machine than anything else.”

I’ve heard it described as only an acoustic guitar riff, but drums, bass, and electric guitar can also be heard in it. Paul played all of the instruments on the entire album himself, a lengthy process that he currently rarely attempts. In recent interviews, he said he feels silly doing all of the instrumentation by himself.

With its short length, maybe we should reconsider “Valentine Day” as a bright, lively interlude that eases the transition from the slow-paced rocker “That Would Be Something” to “Every Night”, a tender, romantic ballad.

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