Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lennie Tristano

Lennie Tristano is a somewhat neglected figure in the jazz world, known as much for the musicians who played with him, like Lee Konitz, as for his own abilities. Here is a rare clip of Tristano playing solo piano in Copenhagen in 1965. The song is "Tangerine".

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Old Fashioned Way

I have a long time interest in comic books, both for the art and, at its best, the storytelling. Even so I haven't followed the DC and Marvel lines for a long time, in part I just don't have the time, money or space to read and collect the stuff anymore, in part because I'm just turned off by the cheap cynicism and convoluted storytelling that has consumed both companies. Still I just have enough interest left to pay attention to it all and occasionally wonder if I'm missing anything. I finally ran across one story that appealed to me, DC's Justice.

Justice is a maxiseries by Jim Kreuger, Alex Ross and Doug Braithwaite featuring the Justice League Of America. It's a story blessedly free of all the recent twists and turns of DC continuity that is simply about all the classic Justice League members, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, et al., dealing with the combined menace of a bunch of their old enemies who suddenly present themselves as the saviours of humanity. The tone is serious but not overly grim with personalities well sketched and characters acting recognizably. Ross' and Braithwaite's art is epic and powerful giving a weight to this cast, especially the villains, that they rarely had in the formative 60's and 70's.

Of course I just read the first of three volumes, so now I want to find the other two, which is more than I've been able to say about any super-hero comic in years. This was not enough to make me a comic book junkie again but it reminded me what I ever got out of the stuff.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gayle McCormick and Smith

After Janis Joplin broke big in the early 70's a number of bluesy, hard-singing female vocalists appeared on the scene, either solo or fronting bands. There was Genya Ravan witrh Ten Wheel Drive, Lydia Pense with Cold Blood and in particular there was Gayle McCormick with a band called simply Smith. This is Smith performing "Baby It's You" and little more commentary is needed. The only other thing I want to say is that I'd like to go back in time and slap the jackass who prevented this woman from becoming a major star.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Original Little Green Bag

When I first saw "Reservoir Dogs" like everyone else I was blown away by the credit sequence with the robbers in the black suits walking along in slow motion, not the least because I knew the song playing underneath, "Little Green Bag" by The Groge Baker Selection.

The George Baker Selection was one of three Dutch bands, along with the Shocking Blue and the Tee Set, that was promoted in America as a supposed "Dutch Invasion". They all had minor hits over here, the Shocking Blue's "Venus" being the biggest but nobody really remembers them outside of the people who heard them at the time, including I suppose Quentin Tarantino. Here is the original video for "Little Green Bag" which coincedentally features a lot of walking. Judging by the group's other videos this was a novelty song for them because everything else I looked at is the cheesiest sort of oompah laden European pop.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mister Five By Five

One of my all time favorite singers, the imperious Buddha of the Blues, Jimmy Rushing, seen here in his youthful glory with the Count Basie band.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lounge-ing Away

Ah, the Lounge Lizards. They began a mock-Jazz group doing "ironic" covers of old 50's cool jazz tunes but eventually morphed into their very hip original identity. I'm not sure how old this clip is or where it's from but all the usual front guys are here, John Lurie, Curtis Fowlkes and Roy Nathanson. The highlight here though is some sick guitar by Marc Ribot. The tune is "Big Heart".

Friday, November 14, 2008


Here's a song I've always liked though I'm a little embarassed to admit I remember when it first came out in 1962. It's a Japanese pop song, "Sukiyaki" by Kyu Sakamoto which I believe was the first foreign language song to reach Number One on the American charts. I've always loved the arrangement of this with the trombones and strings. It sounds like the closing theme for some Western as the hero slowly walks out of town. Coincidentally there is a lot of walking in this clip which comes from a Japanese TV show, "Shall We Meet At Seven".

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Manic Street Preachers - Suicide Is Painless

I'm not intimately familiar with the Manic Street Preachers but I've heard enough of their music to think they have followed a weird career trajectory. The early songs I've heard by them sounded like punky Clash knockoffs. Then somewhere along the way while their lyrics continued to have Marxist-Leftist sentiments, their music changed to soaring widescreen pop which is fine with me because songs like "A Design For Life" and "If You Tolerate This..." are brilliantly catchy works, a lot better than what a comparable band like U2 usually puts out.

All that said this video is for a cover of "Suicide Is Painless", a wonderfully sarcastic song from one of the great anti-war films of all time, M*A*S*H. The instrumental TV version leaves out how jarring this piece is but the Manics bring that feeling back.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Maddy Pryor and Steeleye Span

I've always had a soft spot for British female folk revival singers like Sandy Denny, June Tabor and especially Steeleye Span's Maddy Pryor. Besides being a great singer Pryor has always had this sauciness to her that really gets to her. That is shown in this promo video of the band performing one of their biggest commercial hits, "All Around My Hat". British folk purists used to hate this record because of its glam rock underpinnings. It was produced by Mike Batt who also did music for a kids' TV show at the time called The Wombles and some of those songs used the same electric boogie rhythm that appears here. Maybe it is a little too bright and shiny. It's still a cool tune.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Jimmy Giuffre 3

I hadn't planned on posting two videos in one night but I found this and couldn't wait. This is cool as cool gets, the late Jimmy Giuffre and his trio with Jim Hall on guitar and a bassist I can't identify. (Ralph Pena maybe?) They are doing one of Giuffre's signature pieces, the folk-based "The Train And The River". I think this clip comes from the famous "The Sound Of Jazz" special.

Again...The Norwegian Way

One of my all time favorite songs, Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" as done by a Norwegian duo, Susanna and the Magical Orchestra. I have not heard the song sound this haunting since the original version.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun

I hadn't intended to start posting homemade videos but this one was irresistible. It's for "I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun", a song by a Chicago soul-rock group of the 70's called Rotary Connection. The song itself is extraordinary and the visuals capture a era of black pride and optimism that hasn't been matched since...until the last five days.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

"Don't Marry Her" - The Beautiful South

The Beautiful South was a British group of the late 80's and early 90's that specialized in songs that sounded like cute innocuous pop until you really listened to the lyrics. This song really epitomizes that concept. The first time I heard it I did a double take when the chorus came up and thought "Hold it. What did she just say?"

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Word From Fela

Fela Kuti doing "Black President". For some odd reason it just seemed appropriate.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Hard Sell The Muppet Way

I was watching a disc of episodes from The Muppet Show and that led me to wonder what I could find online on their early days when they did a five minute TV show here in the Washington, DC area, "Sam And Friends". Amazingly I did discover a full episode of the show on YouTube but I couldn't figure out how to link to it. Instead I'm putting up a collection of mini-commercials Jim Henson made with a tadpole-like Kermit the Frog selling a local coffee brand. This extreme slapstick is typical for what the Muppets did in their infancy though obviously it wouldn't fly on today's TV especially in a commercial. You have to admit though. The "Buy this or I'll blow you up" approach is still refreshingly direct.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Jack & Rory show what their politics are

This is a very appropos video clip for right now, Jack Bruce and Rory Gallagher doing the old Cream song "Politician". I don't think Bruce and Gallagher ever recorded together but they sound great together here.