Friday, October 31, 2008

Great Black Music - Ancient To The Future

I'm just finishing the book A Power Stronger Than Itself - The AACM and American Experimental Music, a fascinating history of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, the Chicago-born collective that has produced and inspired a huge chunk of the best modern Jazz and Jazz-derived music of the last thirty years. One compaint about this music is how supposedly inaccessible it is. Yeah right.

In contrast to that idea here's a clip of the AACM's most legendary product, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, giving up the funk at an unidentified live bass with Malachi Favors playing electric (!) bass, Roscoe Mitchell getting down on baritone sax and Lester Bowie energetically pounding a bass drum! Their music can be complex but it's not that much work to get into it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Spike Jones Does His Bit

I have a list of musicians I want to post things by and my latest pick was Spike Jones. I couldn't find a decent looking clip of any of Spike's best known songs but I found something I'd never seen before, a clip from some World War II-era feature of Spike and his boys doing a bit of operetta lampooning Mussolini and Hitler who was often derisively called "Schiklegruber", supposedly his real name. It's not the full band but it is fun.

One More Week

I usually don't pay much attention to politics but it's almost impossible to not be thinking about next week's election. As a 54-year-old black man I can scarcely believe what may be about to happen, especially since it looks to be so doggone lopsided. I'm old enough to remember the Civil Rights era and all the news stories about the fight for integration, the Southern police attacking voting rights workers with clubs and guns, the workers like Viola Luzzo and Medgar Evers who ended up dead and now I may be on the verge of seeing a black man elected president? As Michelle Obama quoted some of the older people working for her husband's campaign "I never thought I'd see the day...".

Of course nothing is settled yet and people still have to actually vote but there's one little karmic fact I haven't seen anybody mention yet. January 20th, 2009 will be both Inauguration Day and Martin Luther King Day. I don't think even Dr. King dreamed of that.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Something More Refined

I saw a performance of Olivier Messiaen's marathon piano piece "Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant Jesus" last night so I'm in the mood for something a bit highbrow than the music I've been posting. Here is a performance of an Elliott Carter chamber piece, "Esprit Rude/Esprit Doux II", by Pedro Carneiro and members of the Portuguese Chamber Orchestra.

arrest And...TRIAL

A lot of obscure old television shows are showing up on DVD now and one of the more interesting I've come across is Arrest and Trial. This was a 1963-64 90 minute show on ABC that had a format where the first half followed police detectives investigating a crime and the second half followed the subsequent trial, the same format that Law And Order would use more successfully twenty five years later but Arrest And Trial turns out to be a much different beast than that later show.

The initial sign something is different is that the second half follows the defense attorney played by, of all people, the ex-Rifleman, Chuck Connors. This isn't really a crime show in the tradition of Naked City or Dragnet. It's more one of the human drama type of shows exemplefied by Route 66 or The Defenders. In the three episodes I saw there was no question of who did what and two of them did not have any kind of big climatic courtroom scene. The plots were about troubled people and the police and lawyers found themselves trying to more acting as social workers trying to help troubled families.

Two shows were about rebellious kids, one of them the illegitimate son of a respected judge. The third involved a middle aged machinist who couldn't accept that he could no longer do his job. The acting standard was high with people like Barry Sullivan, Everett Sloane and Michael Parks as guest stars. Of course you also saw some famous faces in bit parts. Harvey Korman turned up as a psychology professor and Martin Sheen played a juvie henchman. It was also cute to see James MacArthur playing a teenage cop-killer five years before Jack Lord started telling him "Book 'em, Danno" on Hawaii Five-O".

Overall the show had a more optimistic view of the world than current police shows. It had neglected kids making up with their families by show's end. On the Law and Order shows, a neglected kid is more likely to turn out an actual murderer and be dragged off to jail by the police at the end while bragging to his or her shocked parents about they did. Arrest and Trial didn't seem to be a bad show but it had the misfortune to be on Sunday nights opposite Ed Sullivan on CBS and Bonanza on NBC so naturally it only lasted one season. I would like to see some more episodes and see if the trends started on these three continued.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Where Do You Go...?

Gale Garnett is a singer and actress best known for "We'll Sing In The Sunshine", a wistufl little proto-hippie ballad from the Sixties. This clip, for another song, "Where Do You Go To Go Away" is something else againin a big way, a weepy ballad done in a production style somewhere between Busby Berkeley and the Fifties "Bachelor Pad" sensibility promoted by the likes of Playboy Magazine at the time. Like the equally bizarre Joi Lansing clip I posted a few days ago, it's a Scopitone, an early form of music video from the Sixties and there's an entire site,, that tells the entire story of these things and shows a lot of other examples of these things. Don't let anybody tell you the early Sixties couldn't get very weird.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Real Folk Blues

Might as well finish up old business. Here is the closing theme of Cowboy Bebop, "The Real Folk Blues". I love how the title is the only English phrase in the lyrics and really has little bearing on the rest of the words.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mr. Davis and Friends

I'm going to try to post a video once a day for a while to see if that can get me into the habit of doing regular posts. At least it will put some of my varied musical tastes out there. Here is the great Miles Davis Quintet with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams doing their thing on "'Round Midnight" in 1967. I've seen a more dramatic version where Miles practically sucks all the air out of thr building on his solo before Shorter explodes with his, but this one is good too. Wayne is on fire and Tony Williams is just remarkable.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Road To Cairo

I probably won't post videos every day but now that I know how to embed, I can put up a few of the good ones I've found. Here is Julie Driscoll with Brian Auger and the Trinity from 1968 doing David Ackles' "The Road To Cairo".

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Happy Happy! Joi Joi!

That Seatbelts video went up so easily that I thought I'd go for broke and put up something really strange. The star of this video is Joi Lansing, a popular TV and film actress of the 50's and 60's who always seemed to show up in shows like The Beverly Hillbillies and Love That Bob! whenever a blonde bombshell type was needed, for obvious reasons. Sadly she passed away in 1972 at the age of 43 and is largely forgotten today, but here she is singing a song called "Web Of Love" in ersatz jungle surroundings. I was going to post another video of her doing the Dean Martin movie theme, "The Silencers" but one look at the "Web" and I couldn't pass this one by.

Let's Jam!

A few years ago while watching Adult Swim I stumbled onto the anime Cowboy Bebop and was immediately blown away by its music which covered big band jazz, blues, rock and whatever else seemed handy. I eventually found out that the score was the work of a composer named Yoko Kanno who is well known for doing the soundtracks for anime and video games. It turns out there are even four CDs available covering all the Cowboy Bebop music and I've somehow managed to buy the two that contained the show's opening and closing themes, "Tank" and "The Real Folk Blues" without having to take out a mortgage.

So I'm looking around on YouTube the other day and guess what I find? Clips of Kanno and her band, Seatbelts, playing the Cowboy Bebop tunes in live concert. I also found clips of this music played by an American high school band and a South American rock group which suggests this is far more well known than I realized. Anyway now that I know how to post videos, here is Yoko Kanno and Seatbelts with "Tank".

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Three Caballeros

Watching the cartoon The Three Caballeros reminds me of how underrated some Disney cartoons are though it's weird to think of a billion dollar company that set the standard for animated cartoons in North America as being underrated in any way.

This cartoon was the second of two features Disney's animators made in the 1940's inspired by Latin American culture and the first part of it is conventional stuff featuring Donald Duck. Then after Joe Carioca, the Brazilian parrot featured in the previous Saludos Amigos and a Mexican rooster named Pancho show up, things get really insane with surreal trips to a Mexican fiesta and a Brazilian beach done in wild and imaginative style that goes way beyond the then established Disney house style with bits that recall Busby Berkeley and Salvador Dali.

This stuff goes way beyond what is normally thought of as a Disney cartoon and it proves how creative Disney's animators could be when given the chance. We never think of them this way because the company has practically hidden this part of their past from the general public. Generations of us grew up watching the craziness of the MGM and Warner Bros studio product endlessly on TV while Disney kept their cartoon shorts locked in their vaults on when cable came along, in carefully edited form presumably to protect the "kiddies" from lord knows what.

The result is most of us completely overlook stuff like Caballeros or the innovative work like "Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom" and "Jack And Old Mac" which I discovered on the Disney Rarities DVD set, post-war cartoons in the stylized, semi-abstract manner of the concurrent UPA work. It's a shame this has become so forgotten.